Refreshing Pineapple

The pineapple is second only to the banana as America’s favorite fruit.  Pineapples are a juicy fruit with a perfect blend of sweet and tart with citrus undertones.  It works well in so many dishes it’s not hard to find a way to add it to the menu.

The pineapple is technically an herb that generally grows 3-4 foot tall.  The plant has a short, stocky stem with tough, somewhat waxy leaves.  It can produce up to 200 flowers when growing the fruit.  Once it flowers, the individual fruits of the flowers join together in one large mass to create a multiple fruit.  The fruit of a pineapple is arranged in two interlocking helices, eight in one direction, 13 in the other, according to Wikipedia.  From start as a seed to finish as a fruit, it can take up to 3 years for a pineapple to fruit.

Pineapples are tropical and rich in vitamins, enzymes and antioxidants. Pineapple contains all of the recommended daily value of vitamin C, according to the FDA.  Vitamin C is essential for fighting cell damage. This makes vitamin C incredibly helpful against problems such as heart disease and joint pain.  The fruit contains nearly 75 percent of the daily-recommended value of the mineral manganese, which is essential in developing strong bones and connective tissue, according to the Linus Pauling Institute.  Like many other fruits and vegetables, pineapple contains dietary fiber, which is essential in keeping you regular and in keeping your intestines healthy.  But unlike many other fruits and veggies, pineapple contains significant amounts of bromelain, an enzyme that breaks down protein, possibly helping digestion, according to the American Cancer Society.  Because of their bromelain levels, pineapples are also recommended help reduce the risk of blood clots.  Bromelain may also help reduce mucus in the throat and nose.  Remember my column from a couple weeks ago?  The one to help you fall asleep?  Well, pineapples are also high in melatonin.  Regularly eating pineapple before bed will help you fall asleep and stay asleep.

A word of warning though.  Too much vitamin C can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting.  And too much of the bromelain may cause tenderness of the mouth, including the lips, tongue and cheeks.  Extremely high amounts of bromelain can cause skin rashes and excessive menstrual bleeding (remember it’s used to reduce the risk of blood clots).  If you are already on blood thinners, you should only take pineapple in small amounts.  And eating unripe pineapple or drinking unripe pineapple juice is dangerous, reports the horticulture department at Purdue University. In this state, it is toxic to humans.

Fun Facts:

Pineapple canneries use every bit of the pineapple. The skins, core and end portions are used to make a variety of products, including vinegar, alcohol and animal food.

If you cut the crown off a pineapple, you can grow your own pineapple at home and it would be a lot faster than growing it from a seed. My sister did this a few years ago and this year hers is growing a pineapple!! So cool!

Due to the bromelain, pineapple and its juices can be used as a meat tenderizer.

They may help boost the immune system, build strong bones and aid indigestion. Also, despite their sweetness, pineapples are low in calories.  For all its sweetness, one cup of pineapple chunks contains only 82 calories. Pineapples are also fat-free, cholesterol-free and low in sodium. Not surprisingly, they do contain sugar, with 16 grams per cup.  Pick up this prickly fruit this weekend while shopping and add it to the menu on a regular basis, but not daily.  Meet me in the kitchen for some delicious ways to enjoy pineapple!

 

Pineapple Salsa

1 20oz can pineapple tidbits, drained

1 15oz can mandarin oranges, drained and chopped

¼ cup onion, diced

1 small red bell pepper, diced

2 dashes red pepper flakes

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Add all ingredients to bowl and mix well.  Store in airtight container overnight for flavors to meld.  Serve with chips or pita squares or on fish tacos!

 

Easy Pineapple Pie

1 20oz can crushed pineapple

1 3.4oz box instant vanilla pudding mix

8oz sour cream

1 9 inch graham cracker crust

1 8 ounce can pineapple rings 

½ cup shredded coconut

Maraschino cherries and pineapple rings, optional for décor

In large bowl, add crushed pineapple, its juice, pudding mix and sour cream. Mix well until combined. Pour mixture into graham cracker pie crust. Freeze pie for at least 4 hours. Remove from freezer 15-20 minutes before serving. Decorate with shredded coconut, pineapple rings, and optional cherries. Add whipped cream around edge and on top of pineapple rings. Slice and serve cold. 

Recipe adapted from tipbuzz.com

 

Fresh Fruit Salad

For the simple syrup:

3 Tbsps. water

3 Tbsps. granulated sugar

1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped

¼ tsp. ground cinnamon

For the fruit salad:

1 large pineapple (about 4lbs), peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch cubes

1lb strawberries, hulled and halved lengthwise

1 pint blueberries

Fresh mint leaves, for garnish

Combine water, sugar, ginger, and cinnamon in small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to boil, whisking until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and steep for 20 minutes. Cool completely. Meanwhile, prepare fruit. Place pineapple, strawberries and blueberries in large bowl and gently toss to combine. Remove and discard ginger from syrup. Just before serving, drizzle syrup over fruit salad and gently toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. Toss once more before serving and top with torn or crushed mint leaves. 

Recipe adapted from thekitchn.com  

 

Pineapple Refresher

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup water

½ cup mint leaves

2 cups pineapple juice

1 cup lemon juice

½ cup cherry juice

2 cups water

Fresh pineapple slices and cherries for garnish

In saucepan over medium heat, add granulated sugar, water, and mint leaves. Bring to boil and stir until sugar dissolves. Lightly muddle mint leaves with wooden spoon. Simmer for 1 minute, then remove from heat. Allow to steep until cooled, about 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, add pineapple juice, lemon juice, cherry juice and water to pitcher. When cooled, pour simple syrup mixture through a sieve to remove mint leaves. Add to juice mixture and stir until well combined. Add more water as needed to achieve desired sweetness. Refrigerate, or serve over ice and enjoy. Optionally garnish with additional mint leaves and lemon wedges.

Recipe adapted from callmepmc.com

 

Island Nachos

1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. sugar, divided

2 tsps. ground cinnamon

1/3 cup honey

¼ cup butter, cubed

8 flour tortillas (8 inches)

4oz cream cheese, softened

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 8oz container frozen whipped topping, thawed

½ cup drained crushed pineapple

4 medium bananas, sliced

In small bowl, combine 1/3 cup sugar and cinnamon and set aside. In small saucepan, combine honey and butter. Cook and stir over medium heat until blended. Brush onto both sides of tortillas and sprinkle tops with sugar mixture.  Stack tortillas, top sides up and cut into sixths. Arrange wedges, sugared sides up, in single layer on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 400° for 6-8 minutes or until crisp and golden brown. Cool completely on wire racks. In large bowl, beat cream cheese, vanilla and remaining sugar until creamy. Beat in whipped topping until blended. Fold in pineapple. Arrange tortilla wedges on a large serving platter. Spoon cream cheese mixture over wedges. Top with bananas, coconut and nuts. Serve immediately.

Recipe adapted from tasteofhome.com